In the aftermath of the riots in Ferguson, MO last week, I decided to write this week’s blog about a very small part of what is a very complex issue in race relations in America. I have seen a lot of posts from my black friends on Facebook decrying the behavior of the police toward the protesters, rioters, and black people in general, not only in Ferguson, but in the whole country. I have seen just as many if not more of my white friends post things in favor of the police and the actions they have taken to protect themselves and the town. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a typical middle aged white guy. In the vast majority of cases I am pro-law enforcement. I live in the suburbs, so I have had a very positive experience with police officers in my life. For these reasons I cannot comment on how black people and especially poor black people get treated by law enforcement as a whole. What I decided to concentrate on is how the government views white people and black people differently and what might be one cause of that. I try to keep my blogs to around 1000 words and trying to fully develop this topic would take thousands of pages, so I’m going to stick to the topic of voting patterns for the purposes of this article.
If an average person were to do nothing but watch the news they would probably be under the assumption that most black people are poor. That is actually not even close. If we round the numbers to make them pretty, about 25% of black people are poor, 65% are middle class and 10% are upper class. In contrast about 10% of white people are poor, 75% are middle class and 15% are upper class. I bring this up because the perception of police are probably varied by income scale to some degree. Rich black people probably have a much different experience with the police than do poor black people and the same could be said for white people. What people need to remember is that a police officer is not the authority. A police officer is a hammer in the toolbox of our elected officials. They get paid to enforce laws passed by other people, whom we elect. Our local, state and federal governments are the authority. There is a certain circular of logic that is taking place in poor areas that goes like this: poor black people have a negative view of the police, the police see this attitude and are more fearful when dealing with these people, causing a quicker than average violent response against them, that causes the poor black people to have a more negative view of the police. This cycle repeats indefinitely.
Here’s the problem, white people among these income brackets do not vote for the same people. Roughly half of white people vote democrat and half vote republican. Black people on the other hand vote 96% democrat regardless of income. I’m sure that those 4% that vote republican are the more wealthy ones, but they are not significant when it comes right down to it. Why does this matter? When politicians are trying to get elected, they spend their money where it will get the most votes. That is to say, they will spend time and money on people who may change their mind and vote for them. Generally, when it comes to political parties there are always 10-20% of the people that will vote right down the party lines no matter who is running. Politicians take these people for granted and court the other 80% to try to take them away from the other guy. The other guy ignores those 10-20% because it would be a waste of money and time to try to get them to vote for him. When you apply this logic to black voters, you begin to see a small part of what is happening. Democrats know that no matter who is running that 96% of all black people, rich or poor will vote for him/her regardless of what they say or do, and will keep voting for them election after election no matter what they have done, simply because they are a democrat running against a republican. Because of this fact two things happen, one, black people are taken for granted by the Democratic Party and two, black people and their concerns are completely ignored by the Republican Party.
Why does this matter? Well, over the years many laws that hurt black people more than white people have been passed by both parties. The democrats passed the welfare bills in the “war on poverty”, which have devastated the black family. The republicans started the “war on drugs”, which has had a much more devastating effect on black people than white people. Polls show that average black people support ideas like school choice and have a negative view of welfare. They have a high percentage of Christian population. These are all conservative republican ideals. You will never see a democrat vote for school choice because it would upset the teachers union, a group they must court to win. Since they don’t have to court black people, the union wins. A democrat will never curb the drug laws because they think, and probably correctly, that white voters would never go for that. They must court white voters, so white people win.
What about power in numbers? There is something to say about power in numbers. Black people do, in fact, have a seat at the Democratic Party table. The problem is that black people are viewed as a voting block instead of a varied group of people, and are as such relegated to the “kids table” if you will. They know that they need to keep you happy, but know that a little cake every once in a while will keep you where you need to be. Black people who stray are not treated kindly, see Clarence Thomas, Ben Carson, Thomas Sowell, Allen West, Herman Cain, etc… While democrats cater to hundreds of special interest groups and break them up into categories like, women, blacks, Latinos, unions, etc…, the republicans work differently and break up categories into broader things like Christians, libertarians, Tea party, etc… The difference is that when a black person asks a republican what they can do for black people the answer is usually that republican polices make it easier for a black person to do for themselves. This is a scary proposition when it comes to reforming welfare, social security and the other entitlement programs.
It is easy to understand why black people would be hesitant about voting for a party that ignores them and perpetuates the war on drugs. It is not so easy to understand why a black person would vote for a democrat, a party that takes them for granted, have kept them by design as a permanent underclass for the last 50 years. A party that was on the wrong side of the civil war, Jim Crow laws, segregation and even the civil rights movement. A party that after all these years of outright racism, has evolved into the more palatable yet equally dangerous benign racism of lowered expectations. Yes, the Republican Party ignores you, but if they believe what you believe, vote for them. Contrary to what democratic leaders tell you, they do not hate you, and they do not want to harm you. If the black people were as varied as white people in the voting booth you can bet that you would not be ignored by either party for very long. Like my grandfather used to say, “If you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got.” He was a wise man.